indigenous communities

100 Water Heroes: Kelsey Leonard


Shinnecock Tribal Co-Lead on the Mid-Atlantic Regional Planning Body of the U.S. National Ocean Council

Kelsey Leonard currently serves as the Shinnecock Indian Nation’s Tribal Co-Lead on the Mid-Atlantic Regional Planning Body of the U.S. National Ocean Council. In conjunction with tribal, federal and state entities, Kelsey aids in the protection and conservation of American oceans.

In 2012, Kelsey became the first Native American woman to have receive a degree from the University of Oxford, where she obtained an MSc in Water Science. Kelsey seeks to advocate for the conservation of Indigenous waters and “has been instrumental in protecting the interests of Tribes with the development of the Mid-Atlantic Ocean Action Plan.”

Kelsey is also a successful academic, and is busy doing her PhD in Comparative Public Policy at McMaster University. Her research focus is on Indigenous water security and its climatic, territorial, and governance underpinnings. At McMaster University, Kelsey is a Trillium Scholar in Water Policy, as well as a Research Assistant for the Water Economics, Policy and Governance Network (WEPGN).

Kelsey is a scholar who uses her academic expertise to advocate for Indigenous communities affected by climate change and the global water crisis. This makes her one of our #100WaterHeroes.


Twitter: @KelseyTLeonard 

100 Water Heroes: Farhad Contractor


Founder of Sambhaav Trust

Farhad Contractor is the founder of Sambhaav Trust, a voluntary organisation that operates in six Indian states, that “works on reviving and strengthening ecologies in more than 300 villages.”

Having been awarded the Smile Fellowship, he chose to spend time in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, “a place that would run out of water and fodder leading to as much as 70% migration” (Khandekar, 2013). Farhad moved on to work in Bakasar, collaborating with villagers to rejuvenate close to 120 beri’s, and facilitate the creation of close to 400 new ones.

Together with six partners, Farhad registersted the Shambaav Trust, focusing on “rainwater harvesting and community empowerment in the Thar Desert.” One of Farhad’s key principles is to engage and activate the community to fix local issues:

“Centuries of indigenous wisdom that has found water for drinking and irrigation - even in extremely arid landscapes - wells, filter ponds and other catchment systems [the wisdom] still rests with the local communities. And even without any government intervention, they know very well how to manage water.” (in Singh, 2010)

Farhad is one of our #100WaterHeroes because he recognises the value of engaging communities, and empowering them to take charge of local water management issues.

Twitter: Farhad Contractor

Sambhaav Website: